By NBF News
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• Nnamdi Azikiwe &• Okolo
The 2010 visitation panel set up by the federal government to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, has commenced sitting at the Nsukka campus. The chairman of the 11-man panel, Prof. Nuridin Adedipe, said the panel was set up to look into the activities of the university between 2004 and 2010 and how it has implemented the white paper of the previous visitation panel.

Addressing the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Bartho Okolo, and other principal officers, during a visit, the panel chairman said the main duty of the panel was to see how much the university has implemented the White Paper issued by the Federal Government during the previous visitation panel and added that the way it was implemented would determine the progress made by the university within the period under review.

The chairman decried the poor academic standards in Nigerian universities which he said was at variance with the academic qualityexperienced with the old generation universities when they came on board in the 60s and in early 70s.

The panel, Adedipe said, would under the terms of reference, determine the administration's relationship with vital organs of the university as well as government agencies and the private sector. The panel would also, look into the university's relationship with the

host community, the unions, staff and students as well as the council.

'We are on a fact-finding mission to make UNN a better place than we met it,' the chairman assured and commended the Vice-Chancellor for his wonderful achievement within his short tenure in office especially, in the area of environmental facelift of the university.

Responding, the Vice-Chancellor urged the members of the panel to assist the university in its efforts to be one of the best in the world and in Africa. Prof Okolo said his administration has done much in the area of collaboration with other foreign universities especially in the United States, adding that this has yielded great dividends.

He said the UNN has the best ICT infrastructure in Africa. Prof Okolo expressed the hope that the panel would discharge its function dispassionately without engaging in witch-hunting. Meanwhile, the panel has called for memorandum from stakeholders and members of the university community.

Meanwhile, the panel has visited the traditional ruler of Aji, Igwe (Dr.) Simion Osisi Itodo in his palace, in Aji in Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area, Enugu State.

Speaking during the visit, Prof Adedipe told Igwe Itodo that every five years the Federal Government sets panels to look into the activities of its universities to take stock of development there within a period of six years. 'In this case, we are looking into the activities of UNN between 2004 and 2010.'

He said that the panel will look into the funding of the university; the money released to them and how it was used. He said that the panel's term of reference that brought them to the Igwe's palace was the determination of the kind of relationship that exists between the host community and the university.

'We want to find out whether or not the community has benefited from the university,' he said. 'Secondly, how peaceful is the interaction between the host community and the university? We would look into the historical evolution of the university, in other words, how did the university start, how did the university evolve, if possible why Nsukka was chosen for the establishment of the university? We would also want to know how the community has benefited from the university's agricultural department, how it has impacted on the rural farmers by way of extension services including making available technical assistance on modern agricultural method to farmers.'

Welcoming the panel, the royal father who is the deputy chairman, Enugu State Council of Traditional Rulers, paid glowing tributes to Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of Nigeria and the Owelle of Onitsha, who, as the Premier of Eastern Region, founded the university at Nsukka. It will be recalled that the traditional ruler of Eha-Alumona in Nsukka Local Government, Eze Igwe Dr Charles Abangwu, had earlier praised the Great Zik when the panel visited him in his palace. Abangwu, who is also a former pro-chancellor of Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), expressed his delight at the foresight that gave birth to UNN.

Tracing the history of UNN, Igwe Itodo said: 'I have been on this throne for about 28years. I know everything about the university, its origin and who made it possible. It started in 1960 and I know everything about its history from inception till date; both during the military administration and the civilian regime. Our place was a remote and backward area but Dr Azikiwe in his magnanimity decided to open up the area by bringing the university to us. His colleagues in the Eastern House of Assembly were opposed to this and called him names. Today, the university remains the only federal governments presence in our area and the greatest employer of labour. We owe the great Zik a big debt. We know how to receive strangers. Zik lived all his life here at the Onuiyi Haven. We will never forget him. His name has been immortalized here.'

Speaking on the community's relationship with the university, he said: 'There was a time when we did not have cordial relationship with the university authority but the relationship between the host community improved greatly during the tenure of the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, Prof Chinedu Nebo and has continued to improve more and more under the current one, Prof Bartho Okolo.'

On how the host community and the university can maintain cordial relationship, Itodo pleaded with Professor Adedipe to 'please, help us to ensure that the employment quota allocated to the host community is not tampered with', noting that 'we are asking for employment of our people in positions other than higher academic positions as a compensation for offering our land to the Federal Government.'

The DVC Administration, Prof Egbeke Aja, who led the panel members to the Igwe's palace, thanked the Igwe for his hospitality and for receiving them even at short notice.